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Communicate With Your People, Not Just Your Cows

Libby Eiholzer, Bilingual Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

June 6, 2014

Over the past 50 years or so, many dairy farms have undergone significant growth. Farms that used to employ a workforce of only a handful of people with the same last name now look outside their families for additional workers. In the long run, this equates to fewer hours spent working directly with cows and equipment and more hours spent managing the people who work with the cows and equipment. Unfortunately, that?s not always as easy as it sounds; many farm managers have found that their cow skills don?t always translate to people skills. You may have noticed that the approach you use with your bovines doesn?t work as well with your humans.

What language do cows speak? English? Spanish? Chinese? When I?ve posed this question during animal handling trainings, the response I often get is ?all of the above!? It?s true, cows seem to respond to people in the same manner no matter what language they speak, and will listen without judgment to anything you have to say. Whether you realize it or not, you communicate with your cows using body language more than speech. And while your people surely do pay attention to body language, the words you use and especially the way you say them are more important than you may have realized.
What?s more, your employees want you to talk to them. When I translate for a meeting between English-speaking managers and Spanish-speaking employees, frequently the first question that the employees will have for their boss is ?How am I doing?? Though the boss may have just finished going through a list of things that have been done well and some that need improvement employees crave one-on-one contact and constructive feedback- positive or negative- from their boss. Some managers do a good job of addressing this question, if not on a day-to-day basis, then at least when they have a translator available.

As the growing season gets going, many managers spend more time by themselves in a tractor and less time on the ground working with employees. Don?t forget to make time to communicate with your team! While you certainly won?t have the time for one-on-one interaction like you do during less busy times of the year, setting aside time at the beginning of the month may make it a bit easier to follow through. Since you know it?s harder to fit in the time, be creative: send out a group text message, hold a quick meeting over coffee in the break room, or write a note to a group of employees who deserve congratulations on a job well done. Employees tend to become disgruntled when they don?t know what?s going on, so making the effort to keep them up-to-date on farm happenings and providing them with feedback on their performance can keep everyone happier in the long run.

Check out this video from Tom Wall of Dairy Interactive, offering some tips on how to create long-term dairy employees:

Looking for Agricultura? It?s been transformed to a quarterly newsletter with added content. To receive it, contact Libby Gaige: or 607-793-4847.











calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Dairy Cattle Summer Research Update

July 18, 2019
Batavia, NY

After the day's work is done, come hear about two new research trials conducted by Julio Giordano's lab:
  • Strategies for improving dairy cattle reproductive performance and economics
  • Using automated sensors for improving dairy cattle health monitoring and management

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Weed Resistance Management Demonstration and Plot Tour

Event Offers DEC Credits

July 23, 2019
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Waterloo, NY

Come join us on July 23 in Seneca County at Quinten Good's farm for a demonstration and walking tour of 16 different pre- and post-emergence treatments in soybean and 12 different treatments and combinations in corn.
  • Tall waterhemp and marestail are two weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and ALS herbicide modes of action in the WNY and Finger Lakes regions.
  • Each year the number of acres with resistant weed populations expands.
  • For herbicides to be an effective tool in weed management, we have to know what chemistries & application timings are most effective against these resistant weeds.

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Pasture Walk with the Finger Lakes Graziers

July 29, 2019
12:45 - 4 pm
Waterloo, NY

Join the Finger Lakes Graziers on a pasture walk and learn about soil health. 
view details


USDA Announces New Decision Tool for New Dairy Margin Coverage Program

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2019 ? Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today the availability of a new web-based tool - developed in partnership with the University of Wisconsin - to help dairy producers evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

The 2018 Farm Bill authorized
DMC, a voluntary risk management program that offers financial protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. It replaces the program previously known as the Margin Protection Program for Dairy. Sign up for this USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) program opens on June 17.

"With sign-up for the
DMC program just weeks away, we encourage producers to use this new support tool to help make decisions on participation in the program," Secretary Perdue said. "Dairy producers have faced tough challenges over the years, but the DMC program should help producers better weather the ups and downs in the industry."

The University of Wisconsin launched the decision support tool in cooperation with FSA and funded through a cooperative agreement with the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. The tool was designed to help producers determine the level of coverage under a variety of conditions that will provide them with the strongest financial safety net. It allows farmers to simplify their coverage level selection by combining operation data and other key variables to calculate coverage needs based on price projections.

The decision tool assists producers with calculating total premiums costs and administrative fees associated with participation in
DMC. It also forecasts payments that will be made during the coverage year.

The new Dairy Margin Coverage program offers very appealing options for all dairy farmers to reduce their net income risk due to volatility in milk or feed prices," said Dr. Mark Stephenson, Director of Dairy Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Higher coverage levels, monthly payments, and more flexible production coverage options are especially helpful for the sizable majority of farms who can cover much of their milk production with the new five million pound maximum for Tier 1 premiums. This program deserves the careful consideration of all dairy farmers."

For more information, access the tool at For
DMC sign up, eligibility and related program information, visit or contact your local USDA Service Center. To locate your local FSA office, visit

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1